Ask the White Guy: The Business Case for Work/Life Benefits

Is it all a bunch of nonsense? How work/life benefits grow the bottom line.

In response to DiversityInc's article "The Work/Life Balancing Act: How 4 Companies Do It," one reader asks how companies that offer these benefits are affected.


Question:

All of this is well and good, but what is the effect on the bottom line? Are the companies that engage in these practices more profitable? Have they seen an increase in profits since adopting these practices?

Answer:

There is a dramatic bottom-line benefit to diversity management and implementing work/life practices. One simple area to think about is retention. Given that the workforce is now at gender parity, including college-educated workers, then making sure the gender that must bear the children in our society finds it beneficial to continue focusing their talent in the workplace doubles a company's chance to get the best talent into the right positions. My wife said that this would have been obvious a long time ago if men bore half the children. Indeed, work/life efforts have risen as the number of dual-income families have risen because the stress of working and raising a family can be mitigated by good management, to the increased productivity of both men and women, the recruitment of the best and brightest and the retention of your most talented people.

We have written hundreds of articles about bottom-line benefits (there is plenty of documentation on BestPractices.DiversityInc.com). It all boils down to relationship building; if a company has a superior ability to build a relationship compared to its competitor, it will command a higher margin and stronger market share. The company will also be able to pull innovation into its decision-making cycle.

Recently, a large retail company called me for help—their board, comprised of seven white men, one white woman and one Black woman, wanted "proof" that diversity had a bottom-line effect. I doubt the male members are sexists, but you have to think about moving the needle with a group whose very composition reflects a failure of process. Admission that diversity management is a benefit would be a self-indictment!

Although there are clearly other issues, I'll limit this discussion to gender: The simple fact is that more than half of bachelor's degree earners under the age of 60 in this country are women. Therefore, 22 percent women representation is a failure—ESPECIALLY in a retail setting. Now those white men might just be qualified, but is the board as effective as if it were 50 percent men, 50 percent women? How could it be? And, frankly, it isn't. This particular company was the first mover in a space that now has a major competitor. (Again, are the white men on that board qualified? Performance might indicate otherwise). Surely, the board couldn't be "all that"—otherwise, this major competitor never would have happened. There's a penalty for not having good diversity management—although most people don't see it clearly.

I won't tell you how I advised the retail company; I should have charged them for the advice (they do no business with me), and if another retail company wants the answer, just let me know and I'll tell you what my hourly rate is. It was a simple answer (my detractors tell me that's all I'm capable of), but it worked.

Luke Visconti's Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

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